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It’s been over 100 years since Charles Cotta patented a couple of devices that hardly anyone knew about, or cared about at that time.  Four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, whose patents were applied for in 1900, were only one step in the developments brought about by Cotta. Charles Cotta revolutionized the automotive industry before it began.  He had no experience in the mechanical trades prior to his self-introduction to the “horseless carriage”.  Charles Cotta learned from the ground up, working from scratch without the benefit of a machine shop background.  Charles Cotta had a vision to have an automobile that could travel successfully in all seasons and under all roadway conditions.  The vehicle needed to have the ability to raise itself out of mud-holes and ruts, handle obstacles, and be guided over rough and uneven surfaces without jerking the steering lever out of the driver’s hand.  Those visions drove Charles Cotta to design, patent and build a vehicle that could overcome all of those challenges.

  • 1900, Cotta’s labors took official form as U.S. Patent number 652,949- an “automobile running gear and transmission device”
  • 1901 the first Cotta vehicle was completed in Lanark, IL. The Cotta Automobile Company was created to provide a name for the endeavor
  • 1902 the inventor moved operations from Lanark to nearby Rockford where improved cars were constructed
  • 1903 Cotta sold his patent to an up and coming Milwaukee venture called Four Wheel Drive Wagon Company, which later produced heavy trucks using the Cotta transmission and drive principles. During that time, Charles Cotta became a manufacturer, and headed the Cotta Gear and Cotta Transmission Companies, specializing in heavy duty trucks, such as fire trucks, street sweepers, buses, mine sweepers, oilfield drills, switch locomotives and much more.
  • 1904 Charles Cotta had taken a trip of 200 miles in a gasoline fueled automobile. The versatility of the motor driven four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering was the objective of testing the common fuels of the day – with none being as dominant as steam power, which ran silently
  • 1906 the Cotta Gear and Cotta Transmission Companies supplied transmissions and gearboxes for the Four Wheel Drive Wagon Company

The experiments and trials of Charles Cotta helped make possible the versatile four wheel drive commercial carriers that are so much a part of today’s transportation.  Cotta Transmission Company operates with the same vision and principals and continues to be a leader and driving force in transmission gearboxes worldwide.

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